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AN Alternative to Incarceration Prisons take the nonviolent offender and make him live by violence Place them in overcrowd cell-blocks deprive them of meaningful work and the result is an embittered underclass This essay will analyze the current problems with our prison system such as economic and social cost And finally it will propose a solution based on restorative justice which is a working program for non-violent and low risk offenders Americans literally pay a great deal for prisons to fail so badly Like all big government solutions they are expensive In the course of my studies dealing with the criminal justice system I have learned that the federal government spends approximately 80000 dollars to build one cell and 25000 per year to keep a prisoner locked up Kain 2002 The cost in state prison for example California is significantly lower 40000 to build one cell and 15000 per year Both figures are higher than it costs to educate a student at the college level These figures are not getting any lower There is a better way to deal with crime and punishment in America Our prisons are currently overcrowded and to maintain our current prison population it is estimated that more than ten billion dollars needs to be spent on construction As a society we not only pay economic costs but the very nature of prison no matter how humane society attempts to make it produces an environment that is inevitably devastating to its residents Many Americans believe in our current prison system and also believe that it is an effective form of punishment for the criminal Some would say that criminals could live decent civilized lives in prison then graduate to decent civilized lives in the free world My question to these people is how can criminals live civilized lives in an environment that only offers chaos and mild forms of anarchy It is well known what goes on behind closed
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